updated 7/8/2008 5:21:29 PM ET 2008-07-08T21:21:29

A British woman assaulted by a serial rapist has won the right to sue the attacker who became a millionaire by winning the lottery while in prison.

A judge ruled Tuesday that the 78-year-old victim, known only as Mrs. A, can seek punitive damages from Iorworth Hoare for an attempted rape in 1998.

Hoare won about $12.8 million at the time — when he bought a winning lottery ticket in 2004 while spending a few hours outside prison under supervision. He received his money when he was released in 2005, after serving 16 years of a life sentence for attacking Mrs. A. He had six previous convictions for sexual assaults and rape.

Mrs. A sought to sue Hoare when she learned about his winnings. But she was initially told the time limit for compensation claims had run out, with such claims allowed only up to six years after a crime.

On Tuesday, Judge Peter Coulson ruled she could pursue the lawsuit, saying he accepted that Mrs. A did not sue Hoare immediately after the attack because the convict did not have funds that would make a financial claim worthwhile.

Coulson stressed that the case was exceptional and should not lead to many people trying to sue long after the statute of limitation runs out.

"It will be even rarer for such a defendant, years later, to buy a lottery ticket which wins him 7 million pounds or otherwise comes into an unexpected fortune which makes him suddenly worth pursuing after all," the judge said.

In a statement that formed part of the court ruling, Mrs. A said: "I very strongly believe he should be held accountable to me for his attack on me and the physiological damage the attack caused me over the years. The attack fundamentally changed me and I am not the person I used to be."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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